Mindfulness: Is It Just a Buzzword?
It's easy to think of mindfulness as the latest buzzword du jour, but what is mindfulness in meditation and how does it differ from other introspective practices such as Buddhism?
Mindfulness is a mind and body based approach with the aim of helping its practitioners to decrease stress and anxiety and cope with everyday life by changing the way they think and feel about their experiences.
Its roots lie in Buddhism and meditation and it teaches you to how to enjoy the here and now, without engaging in the harmful practice of reliving past bad experiences.
A recent Harvard study concluded that just 8 weeks of mindful meditation can rewire parts of your brain. You become more focused and retrain yourself to become less distracted.
Phil Lancaster (agingslowdown.com) is a participant in the Amazon Services LLC Associates Program, an affiliate advertising program designed to provide a means for sites to earn advertising fees by advertising and linking to Amazon.com.
Practical Mindfulness in Meditation
Not everyone wants to sit in lotus position while meditating.
One of the great things about mindfulness is that you can practice it within any enjoyable activity that keeps you tightly focused. The idea is to do it regularly.
Origami is a wonderful, enjoyable activity that requires focus and concentration. During the construction of an origami piece, you become disconnected from the outside world.
Origami originated in 17th century Japan and is derived from ori, meaning "fold" and kami, meaning "paper". Origami totally fits the philosophy of keeping both your body and your mind in the moment and experiencing mindfulness in meditation.
I learnt origami from a lovely book from the library when I was around 12. I still remember the satisfaction of building my first flapping bird. You held its chest and pulled the tail to make the wings flap. Friends and family were suitably impressed and I went on to fold many more shapes, some simple and some quite complex.
The book Japanese Origami for Beginners, shown to the right, is a great starter for adults or children.
It's actually a kit, comprising a 96 page book with detailed instructions for constructing 20 classic pieces, 72 sheets of high-quality origami papers and an instructional DVD so you can watch exactly how each model is made.
And yes, that's my original flapping bird on the cover.
Origami is steeped in traditional values. The 20 models presented in this kit include many with strong symbolic meanings, such as the carp, the frog and the crane, which symbolize longevity, good luck and perseverance. Also included in this kit are paper models which have practical uses, such as a bag in which to store spices or powdered medications, the masu box for containing small gifts, and uniquely shaped notes with elaborate closures.
The more playful side of origami is represented as well. The stylized sumo wrestler with realistic moves has entertained Japanese children for centuries, and the paper Samurai hat is a favorite of kids.
The whole kit is available from Amazon. Click on the book image or the link below to get it from Amazon at the best price available.
Adult Coloring Books
Anyone can color in, and no one's going to yell at you if you go outside the lines.
No longer just for kids, adult coloring books have in recent years made it onto best seller lists.
Ranging from people to animals to complex mandalas, they are a perfect adjunct to mindfulness. In meditation, they focus your mind totally and engage hand, eye and mind coordination.
Researchers have used brainwave technology to determine positive neurological responses from people engaged in coloring. These positive responses included both brainwave patterns and heart rhythms. And you can color in almost anywhere, waiting for public transport or your dental appointment for example.
There are many great adult coloring books available from Amazon. I think the one I've shown to the right is one of the best, containing animals, flowers, mandalas, paisley patterns and more.
There are even, ahem, slightly ruder ones as well.
So if you'd like to try out the stress relieving powers of adult coloring and discover how this enjoyable pastime can help you with your voyage along the mindfulness path, click on the image to the right or the link below to buy from Amazon.
Gardening for Mindfulness
Here's something you won't see advertised by the big pharmaceutical companies:
Around 15 years ago, a scientist named Mary O'Brien discovered that certain microbes in soil can boost your serotonin and norepinephrine levels, working in a similar fashion to ant-depressant medication, but without the unpleasant and sometimes dangerous side effects.
In other words, getting your hands dirty can give you a happiness boost!
On top of this, you can fall into a meditative state while gardening. Typically, you are out in the sun, pottering around, improving the soil, planting things, watching them grow and bloom and generally contributing to both producing living things and oxygenating your bit of the planet. It's a classic and enjoyable case of mindfulness in meditation.
What a lovely craft is knitting.
It's even been said that knitting is the new yoga. There are knitting classes popping up everywhere and they provide a great opportunity to make new friends of both sexes!
But back to mindfulness.
In meditation terminology and practice, knitting is always in the present moment.
There's a repetitive, rhythmic quality to knitting that requires attention and at least some skill. Although the skill really manifests itself in being able to do it fast and without constantly looking at the needles. Beginners and even children can turn out some lovely results, they just can't do it as fast as an experienced knitter.
A 2011 study published in the Journal of Neuropsychiatry and Clinical Neurosciences found that older people who engaged in crafts such as knitting and crocheting had a better chance of avoiding cognitive issues such as dementia and the associated memory loss.
So there you are. Knit your way to mindfulness and create lovely winter woollies into the bargain.
Pottering Around with Pottery
One thing that pottery has in common with gardening for mindfulness is that it's another opportunity to experience the joy of getting your hands dirty.
Apparently, Brad Pitt is a fan and, of course, endorsement by celebrities has lead to more research into its benefits. And those benefits align closely with mindfulness.
The American Journal of Art Therapy published a 2016 study showing that cortisol (your body's stress hormone) levels decreased in a large percentage of the study group who engaged in pottery production.
Another study in the UK showed that art making activities such as pottery promoted fast recuperation after illness and helped alleviate stress and anxiety. As a bonus to society as a whole, expenditure on health and social services was reduced.
Do you want to try being a potter?
It needs a little more investment than origami, gardening or knitting.
But oh so rewarding!
The first thing you need is a decent potter's wheel.
You don't have to spend a fortune, but you do need to steer clear of the low-quality cheapies. I've recommended a mid-range one that's absolutely fine for a beginner but that will serve you well into the future. It's sold by Amazon so your investment is protected. Click on the image or the link below.
Mindfulness in Meditation
As always, that's been the aim of this article. I hope I've succeeded in removing the concept of mindfulness from the airy-fairy into the real world with practical examples.
As always, I'd love to hear from you, no matter what you have to say. Just leave a comment below and we can start a conversation.
See also: Mindfulness in Plain English
Coming soon: Mindfulness for Anti-Aging and Mindfulness for Weight Loss.